There’s nothing quite like the feeling of elation that you get when you see your pup excitedly running toward you, tongue out to the side of their mouth and ears flapping in the wind. That feeling is even better when they come running in response to you calling their name.
Teaching your dog to come when called is important to get your dog’s attention, but it could be essential for your dog’s safety as well.
Reasons Why Your Dog Won’t Come When Called
Since this is one of the first commands that pet parents try to teach their pups it’s important to know why it may not be currently working.
If your dog won’t come to you anymore it might not be due to misbehavior, instead it may be due to unsuccessful training. Here are some common reasons you may be having teaching your dog to come to you.
Your dog doesn’t know the command
Dogs don’t speak English so it should be no surprise to you that they don’t know the definition for the word ‘come.’
With successful training, your pooch will learn to recognize it, but we often add confusion by mixing in other words with the command such as their name, come now, come here, and so on. It’s best to pick a single word such as ‘come’ or ‘here’ and stick with it.
This is a common dog training mistake.
Dogs are quick to disobey a command if they know there may be punishment involved.
Dog parents too often have their dog come to them when they’ve been doing something wrong, such as chasing the neighbor’s cat or chewing on the rug. If your pup is expecting you to be mad or to get a scolding when they come to you, it’s no wonder they may not obey.
Like all dog training commands, teaching your dog to come when called takes practice.
Once you’ve determined what command you’re going to use, whether it’s ‘come’, ‘here’, or whatever, you’ll need to use it many times per day. Start in a quiet spot with no distractions and then gradually add distractions in when she reliably starts to come to you.
The last thing you want is to trust your obedience training during a trip to the dog park when she isn’t following your commands at home.
The command has become irrelevant
You’ve got to make it worth her time and effort to come to you. If she successfully comes when you call your pooch deserves to be rewarded with treats, praise, or affection.
After a couple of trips to you with nothing in return, the ‘come’ command isn’t going to mean anything relevant to your dog anymore.
‘Come’ is not longer a positive command
Similar to creating apprehension with the command, you need to use it more often than to put an end to his fun. This doesn’t necessarily mean your dog is getting scolded or punished when he comes to you, it could be that you only ask him to come when it’s time to leave the dog park or to get his toenails trimmed. Make sure you’re asking him to come for fun stuff too, like to get leashed for a walk or to practice other obedience training complete with treats.
Methods for Teaching Your Dog to Come
As we said before, training your dog to come when called is one those basic dog obedience commands that is important for your peace of mind and your pup’s safety.
Your dog can start learning this command as soon as she’s able to recognize her name. Training your dog to come when called, also known as recall, is best when learned in a step-wise fashion.
Your pup needs to master each step before she advances to the next one so that you can trust her to successfully come when you call even when faced with squirrels, balls, and other dogs at the dog park.
With the help of a friend and a distraction-free area, have one person lightly restrain your pup while you excitedly call his recall command from about 10 feet away.
Let the pup run towards you and generously reward with treats or games. Then have him go to the other person.
Repeat this until your dog is successfully moving between people when asked. Then increase the distance as he perfects his skills.
Increase the distractions
Once your dog is reliably performing recall in a controlled area, it’s time to start adding some distractions.
Move outside where there may be barking dogs, people walking by, or birds flitting about. Keep in a fenced area so that there’s no worry of her getting into trouble and then repeat the ‘ping-pong’ game.
Start out close and increase the distance as she successfully responds.
Use a long line or leash
Start this once you’re comfortable that your pooch will come to you with distractions.
Take her to an open area, such as a dog park, but keep her on a leash or line that is 30-50 feet in length.
Practice your commands while holding on to the end of the leash. By giving your pup a longer range with which to roam, you can work on using your ‘come’ command without worrying about her getting into trouble.
Move down to his level
If you’re having trouble getting your pup to come to you when you call, try moving down to his level, especially if you’re working with a puppy. Squatting or kneeling on the ground brings you closer to his eye level and not feel so overpowering.
This is extra important for dogs that are more skittish or haven’t developed a complete trust in you yet. Keep your voice light and fun and definitely add a little excitement to it.
More Tips to Further Help Your Dog Learn the Recall Command
If your dog still doesn’t want to come to you at all or every time you call, here are just a few more dog training tips to get him moving in the right direction.
As stated before, you’ll want to start out teaching your dog to come on a small level. This means a short distance with no distractions.
If you haven’t built this foundation, there’s no chance your pup will come when he’s faced with noises, other animals, and moving objects. Once she’s able to come to you every time you call her in this limited environment, then you can start adding other obstacles in the way, such as bring in other people or animals or move it outside where everything can seem a distraction.
If she stops coming when you call with these added distractions, take her back to the previous level and begin again. Patience is key if you want to teach your dog to listen to you every time.
Plan short training sessions
Dogs have short attention spans and can get bored with something easily. So don’t expect more than 10-15 minutes out of them at a time and don’t try these sessions more than twice a day.
Some dogs are going to have a longer attention span than this and some are going to be even shorter. Get a feel for what your pooch is up for and make sure not to push the limits to where it’s no longer fun. If you’re training a young puppy, you may need to plan even shorter training sessions and more playtime to keep them engaged.
Reward with high-value treats
Does this mean gold or jewels? No, to your dog the most high value treat is something extra tasty.
Some pups are happy with pieces of their regular kibble while others will want something a little more exotic. Other ideas include hot dog pieces, cheese, peanut butter, or dried liver.
Make sure to consider the caloric content and balance her meals to reflect it so that she doesn’t gain too much weight. If you don’t have treats on hand you can still reward your pup with lots of pets, praise, or play.
Make successful recalls fun
This can be partially done with treats, but also remember to call your dog to you for fun things as well.
Remember that he won’t want to come to you if you’re always making him leave the dog park or take a bath. Have him come to you before meals and walks as well.
Never chase your dog
Most of the time the reason we want our dog to come when called is because we need to get a hold of him to keep him out of trouble or to change activities.
If he won’t come to you when you call, never chase after him. This may end up scaring him or making him think you’re playing a game.
You can turn the tables on him and try to get him to chase you. Call him and then turn and run in the other direction. He may decide to try to chase you. You should then be able to call him to you and reward him.
Avoid scolding your dog if they come
It’s going to take some time before your pup completely gets the 'come when called' command.
If he doesn’t come to you right away or if you have to use some other method to get him to come, it’s important to never, ever scold him. This only teaches him that bad things happen when he comes to you and they’re not going to want to do it again.
Instead, still praise him even if he ignores you the first 10 times you call. Eventually he’ll understand that the sooner he comes to you the sooner he gets his reward.
Coming when called one of those basic commands that needs to be in every pup’s arsenal.
By having your dog reliably come to you when called will allow you to keep them out of trouble and to bond with him. It’s important to always make training fun, never use punishment or scolding, and have lots of patience.